THE OTHER SIDE
A giant, rubber ball-shaped Plastic Man bounced into the arrival area of the JLA Watchtower. The Monitor Room’s Teleport signal had indicated an incoming arrival so he had come to check it out. As soon as he arrived, Teleport Tube 3 lit up and two figures appeared. Instantly, one figure dissipated in a blur of motion, the wind from its momentum carrying the figure’s words back to a startled, now-man-shaped Plastic Man.
Plastic Man turned back to the Tube just in time to see Green Lantern—no, Kyle Rayner—emerge from the glass enclosure, his face exploding with laughter. Rayner was clutching his sides, tears streaming down his cheeks as he stumbled out into the reception area. His laughter seemed to elevate to a "Defcon 4" level as he watched the blur streaking off down the hallway of the Watchtower. Before Plastic Man could interrupt enough to find out what was happening, Teleport Tube 2 flashed and Arthur Curry and Diana Prince emerged. If Kyle’s condition had been "Defcon 4," it was safe to say that Arthur was easily at "Defcon 2." He fell more than walked out of the Tube and collapsed on the floor, screaming out peals of laughter as Diana stepped over him, no more than an amused smile on her face.
"Hey Plaz," she greeted, a small chuckle escaping with the words as she walked nonchalantly toward the living quarters. Plastic Man’s jaw hit the floor. Literally. Not only had Wonder Woman walked passed this odd collection of giggling humanity on the floor as if it were a normal occurrence, but she had call him "Plaz!" Diana never called him "Plaz!" He lifted his jaw back up and raised a finger, as if preparing to ask her a question when Teleport Tube 4 lit up. The sight in Tube 4 caused Plastic Man’s jaw to return to its resting position on the floor, this time joined with the entire bottom half of his face.
Two identical Clark Kents emerged from Tube 4, both chuckling in unison and eyeing each other jokingly. At the sight of the Two Kents, Arthur and Kyle both reached "Defcon 1" as Kyle collapsed to the floor beside Arthur, the pair rolling around like children in the mud. The Two Kents approached Plastic Man, each one clasping a different shoulder and speaking in unison.
"Hey Plaz. How’s it going?"
Mama O'brien’s baby boy… who had faced some of the greatest challenges and adversaries, who had fought the world’s worst villains, who had battled along side the greatest heroes on the planet—all with a smile on his face and a joke on his lips… fainted.
I am Vengeance!
The words sound right.
I am the Night!
As does the voice
I am Justice!
Thank God! Batty’s here! He'll straighten this whole mess out! He always does…
I am in… desperate need of a personality transplant!
Eel O'brien forced his eyes open to see Kyle, Arthur, and Superman all standing around a crouching cowled figure, hunched over in what could best be described as Bela Lugosi doing Yoga. The whole room was alive with laughter once again as the cowled figure—who certainly looked like Batman—stood back up straight, laughing just as loudly as the rest. Something was wrong here. Batman didn’t laugh! Eel knew that he, personally, had delivered some of the greatest one-liners since Henny Youngman in this guy’s presence with nary a chuckle. Now, not only was he laughing, but it appeared that he was, in fact, the source of the merriment. Something was seriously wrong here! He focused his attention on the Laughing Bat and suddenly his eye for detail caught up with him: the ears! The ears on the cowl were way too long. They looked almost cartoonish as they flopped around like a pair of Kevlar Bobble-heads. As he finally seemed to regain control of all his faculties, realization dawned on him like a kick to the back of the head…
All of the Leaguers in the room suddenly turned to the newly awakened Eel, smiling wide, most still chuckling and the room erupted with a chorus of "Plaz!" The cowled figure slowly morphed into the normal green humanoid form of the Martian Manhunter. Arthur and Kyle stumbled over to the couch where Eel was laying and helped him to his feet. Eel was still shaking the last remnants of dust from his brain as he asked, "What the hell is going on?!" Kyle, still standing beside him and holding on to his arm, suddenly doubled over again, laughing hysterically. J'onn, seemingly the calmest of the group, came up to Eel, a warm smile across his face, and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.
"Sorry, Plaz. We just got back from the funniest show we've seen in a long time…"
Suddenly, a gust of wind filled the room as Wally West came speeding back in. "Yeah. A show! A friggin' hilarious show!" the speedster replied to the question he hadn’t even really been in the room yet to hear. "I almost pissed myself I was laughing so hard!" he added with a laugh.
"Hey, I told you that 64 oz. Coke at dinner was a mistake!" Kyle interjected between laughs. The other JLA'ers in the room chuckled again. All except for Plastic Man, still mired in his own confusion.
"Cat-Tales: An Evening with Catwoman!" J'onn explained, expecting that to be enough.
Plastic Man’s eyes widened under his goggles and a smile finally crept its way onto his face, followed by an understanding "Ahhh!"
All of the reviews and gossip surrounding this show in the public press was nothing compared to the buzz screeching its way through the superhero community. Eel had heard from no less than three different sources that he "absolutely had" to see this show. He had planned on going to that night’s performance but he had been stuck with monitor duty instead. And now, it seems, the rest of the JLA had taken it upon themselves to go see it without him!
"You went to see it?!" he asked, momentarily aghast.
"Oh yeah," Arthur replied. "Funniest thing I think I've ever seen. And remember, I've seen flounders mate!" Both Arthur and Kyle simultaneously looked at each other, then flopped down onto the couch that Eel had been laying on, both of them again convulsing with laughter.
"All of this over a show?" Eel thought. He noticed Superman and J'onn chuckling again as they headed over toward the pool table, J'onn reaching up to grab a cue stick as Supes started racking the balls. Wally came over to the couch and flopped down in between the giggling Arthur and Kyle, joining in the laughter.
Eel watched as all the men in the room continued laughing and joking with one another. "I've never seen them this… giddy! They're acting like… well… ME!?!"
He turned back to the trio on the couch and morphed into a bean-bag, slumping down on the floor in front of them. "So it was really that good?" he asked aloud.
Wally was the first to reply. "Yes! I mean, the writing was good, the performance was flawless and the stories were hysterical. The bit about Nightwing floored me. I thought Dick was going to pass out in his seat!" he ended in another chuckle.
"So, now for the $64,000 question," Eel probed. "Is it Her?"
All three Leaguers on the couch looked him straight in the eye and replied in unison: "YES!" Eel swung his head around and noticed Supes and J'onn had stopped their game and were both looking right at him. It had actually taken him a moment to register the fact that they had both replied to the affirmative at the same time.
"You're all positive? I mean, she could just be an.."
"No way!" Kyle interjected. "It was her. We're ALL sure of that! I mean, there’s no mistaking a set of cans like tha…"
Kyle was interrupted by a condescending cough from Superman, causing Kyle to shoot him a confused look that remained unanswered until the sound of clicking of heels brought his attention to the doorway.
A newly costumed and immaculately freshened Wonder Woman walked into the room, fidgeting with her right bracelet. She shot a perturbed look in Kyle’s direction, then headed toward an overstuffed chair by the pool table.
"Well, I thought it was a very witty and entertaining program. But most of all I’m glad to see that she has finally turned over a new leaf," the Amazonian Princess extolled to no one in particular. From across the room (and behind her back), J'onn and Arthur locked gazes with each other before simultaneously rolling their eyes, smirks adorning both their faces. Diana turned and sat daintily in the chair as she glanced over at the pool table.
"Well, we don’t really know that for sure," Superman replied, leaning over the table and taking a shot. "I mean, she could really just be doing this for the money."
"Or the fame," Kyle added.
"Or just for the fun of it!" Wally concluded.
"I doubt it," Wonder Woman retorted, just a hint of superiority in her voice. "I hardly think that an off-Broadway show would be any where near as lucrative as her… previous choice of career. And as far as fame goes, why would someone who dresses up in a costume and steals for a living want to reveal her real name and admit to countless crimes in front of the general population. As far as… 'for the fun of it' goes," she added, looking directly at Wally, "again, why would she risk exposure just for some kind of cheap thrills. No, I’d venture to guess that she’s finally seen the error of her ways and decided to forgo the nighttime forays in the 'criminal arts' in lieu of a more… appropriate profession."
"If you say so," Wally muttered under his breath, prompting an elbow jab from Kyle.
The pair glanced at each other, then stifled a few more giggles. Eel reshaped into human form, then looked to the trio on the couch, all poking and giggling like twelve-year-olds. If this was what that show did to these guys, he couldn’t wait to see it! He decided he needed to go make reservations immediately, so he turned and left the over-jovial cluster of heroes and headed back to the Monitor Room to make a few phone calls.
Superman walked around the table, lining up for his next shot. "Well, in any event, I think it would be nice to get her something," he suggested, leaning down for his next shot. "You know, a congratulatory bouquet or something."
"Oooh! With a card!" Kyle prompted.
"Oh, yeah. That’s a grand idea," Arthur replied sarcastically. Sending a known criminal a card with every JLA member’s signature was not Arthur’s idea of a "nice gift". He didn’t know what all crimes this woman committed in her past, but with larceny, burglary, and breaking & entering under her belt, he decided that forgery was not an outrageous assumption.
"Look, no one says we have to sign the card, Arthur," Kyle explained, knowing full well what Aquaman’s reservations were. "We can all just put our own little congratulations messages… ya know, anonymously!"
In an instant, Wally had disappeared from the couch, run out of the room and returned with a handful of fresh flowers. Diana eyed him curiously. "Wally? Where did you get those?"
"The Hydroponics Garden," he replied as if the answer was obvious.
"The Hydroponics Garden?! Wally! That garden is what supplies this station with oxygen. It took us a long time to stabilize that environment…" she chided, suddenly sounding overly maternal.
"OK! Sorry! Geez, I only took a few…"
"Wally, every plant in that garden is part of a delicate balance," she began.
"It’s ok, Diana," Arthur interrupted. "I’ll go down later and make sure nothing else died."
Diana grunted a begrudging affirmation, then returned her attention to the pool game.
"Ok," Kyle started as he stood up and went to the cabinet to retrieve a small card. "So we all put our own messages…" he turned to Arthur, looking directly at the Atlantian’s face as he added, "…without signatures! Then, I’ll run the set down by the theater on my way back to Philly." He headed over to the bar, placed the card down and began searching for a pen.
Superman set his pool cue down, then walked over to join Kyle at the bar. "I got it," he replied, brandishing a pen from the hidden stash he always kept in his costume.
"You carry a pen in your suit?" Kyle asked, eyeing the Man of Steel as if he had just pulled a live rabbit from under his cape.
"Always be prepared, Kyle. Just like the Boy Scout motto says," he replied with a quick wink and flick of the pen. What he couldn’t admit to Kyle was the real reason he always carried a pen was that he never knew when "Clark Kent" would need to jot down notes for a story or two. Superman leaned down and wrote his message on the card:
We enjoyed the show, Thank you very much
He picked it up, fanning it to dry the ink as he took it over to Wonder Woman.
"Hey!" Kyle objected, "What about me!?!"
"Oh calm down, Kyle. You'll get your chance!" Superman chided playfully as he handed the card to Diana. She took the card and wrote a short message then handed the card to J'onn, pointedly looking at Kyle while doing so.
"Oh, c'mon!" Kyle complained.
J'onn looked down at the card and read Diana’s message:
So glad to see you embrace the path of righteousness!
He chuckled to himself, thought about what to say, then wrote the only thing he could think of, referring as much to Diana’s message as to his true thoughts of the show:
J'onn held up the card and pen, motioning for Arthur to come and get it, when suddenly a large green hand appeared in the middle of the room, its forefinger and thumb pinching over the card and pen and snatching it from J'onn’s hand. The hand floated over to Kyle and handed him the card and pen, then disappeared into his ring. He smiled smugly as he wrote.
"Well, that was uncalled for," J'onn stated flatly. Kyle finished writing, then walked up behind Arthur on the couch and held the card down over Arthur’s shoulder, and poked his tongue out at J'onn in defiance.
Arthur took the card and pen, read the other messages and chuckled just as J'onn did at Diana’s message. Then, he shook his head at Kyle’s message before adding his own: the one word that he could think of to describe not only the show itself, but the performance and the woman who performed it:
Arthur handed the card and pen to Wally, now back on the couch beside him. Wally took the card and read all of the other messages, laughing at Kyle’s, then laughing as he added his own:
So funny I almost pee'd!
He handed the card and pen back to Superman, who put the pen away, then read over the card. "Kyle!?!" he laughed, "What is this?!"
"What?" the Green-ringed hero responded
Superman cast him a jokingly disapproving look, then read Kyle’s message aloud:
Could you teach me to weather that stare of his, cause it always makes me cave
J'onn, Arthur and Wally all cracked up and Diana gave him a disappointed scowl.
"What?!?" Kyle replied defensively. "It’s true! I wanna know how she does it!"
"Kyle," Wally said with a chuckle, "the only way you'll ever be able to do it the way she does it is to grow a set of Double D’s."
"Wally!!!" Diana gasped, a look of shock warping her features.
"What?!" he asked, still laughing.
"How dare you! That was one of the most offensive, degrading things I've ever heard you say!" She crossed her arms over her chest as she glared at him.
"Oh, c'mon, Diana. You just spent two hours watching this woman’s performance—and laughing your ass off in the process—and you don’t think she uses her sexuality to get under Batman’s skin?!?"
"She was simply asserting her independence. You, young man, do not have the right to demean her simply because of her… endowments!" She pointed an accusing finger at him. "You know, this is exactly the kind of thing that us women have to put up with on a regular basis! Just because a woman is strong-willed and has her own opinions about her own life and how to live it, doesn’t mean that she has some kind of 'ulterior motive' in mind. This beautiful, independent woman has finally decided to put her life of criminal activity behind her and choose a more righteous path, and immediately the 'men' decide that she must be…"
As the only two telepaths in the core membership of the Justice League, J'onn and Arthur, shared a strange kind of bond. It was the kind of bond that only two guys who can immediately communicate with one another without any one else in the room knowing can have.
::Oh H'ronmeer, she’s at it again::
::Look out: soapbox, 1 o'clock!::
::What is she going on about now?::
::I don’t know, J'onn. I think she was offended the moment she walked in because of Kyle’s little "cans" comment and was just waiting for the chance to mouth off::
::I have noticed that’s it’s been taking less and less to "set her off" recently.::
::Tell me about it! The other night, she came up to relieve me on monitor duty and, purely out of consideration, I warned her that Kyle had spilled soda on the keyboard and some of the keys may be a bit sticky.::
::Let me guess, she started screaming about his carelessness?::
::Worse, she accused me of trying to manipulate her into cleaning it up! She accused me of assuming that just because she was a woman, that she would be responsible for all of the cleanup in the Watchtower! I mean, she let me have it, both barrels blazing…::
::What'd you do?::
::I just stood there, let her get it out of her system. Ten minutes of "No Holds Barred" Princess of Themyscira Righteous Fury later, I looked directly at her and explained, in the calmest voice possible, that Steel had already been notified and that he would be bringing a replacement during her shift.::
::Yep. She just stared at me, looking nine kinds of confused, then tried to apologize… well, not apologize—'cause Gods know, Diana never apologizes, because Diana is never wrong!—but at least explain herself. I told her to quit trying, that I got her message loud and clear. Then I told her to save her speeches for "the masses" and walked out.::
::Good! I mean, we all understand her plight. We have all, I think, tried to respect her position and her "mission". But, I mean, let’s face it: the five guys in this room right now are probably the most liberal, pro-women men in the universe and she continually berates us like a bunch of… fraternity boys! We all hear where she’s coming from here, but all Wally did was suggest that maybe Catwoman uses her own assets to get what she wants. I think we ALL noticed that from this evening’s performance.::
::It’s like that bit earlier about Catwoman "turning over a new leaf". And that comment on the card!!::
::Oh, I know.::
::I mean, there are thousands of reasons I can think of for Catwoman to put on a show like this and none of them involve the word "reformation". Yet, when you contradict Princess Prattlehead, it suddenly becomes a discussion about man’s inequities toward women… ::
::Oh crap, Arthur! Clark’s gonna try to speak up!::
::Look at him! He’s itching to say something, he’s just patiently waiting for her to take a goddamn breath!::
::Shit. Don’t do it, Clark! Don’t do it!::
"Look, Diana," Superman began as gently as possible, "we all hear what you are saying, but Wally was just joking around. He didn’t mean anything by it."
"Oh, don’t patronize me, Flyboy! You know as well as I do what kind of damage mere words can have on…"
"Fuck this," Arthur muttered under his breath. He clasped Wally on the knee, gave him a quick wink, then pushed himself up to a standing position. He looked over at Diana, who was still in mid-rant with no end in sight, and then to J'onn, both men shaking their heads ruefully. Arthur turned toward the doorway and headed out before he was stopped by Diana’s voice.
"Arthur? Where are you going?"
"I really think that you ought to stay and listen to this. You need to hear this too."
Arthur snapped his head around, paused for a moment, then slapped on the biggest smile he could muster. "Well, Princess, as much as I’d love to stay here and listen to your marvelous theories about the mental and emotional deficiencies of the entire male gender, I have a Kingdom to run. So, if you will please excuse me, I must be going." He ended with a short, rigid bow, then turned back around and headed out the doorway. He approached the Teleport tubes and punched in the code for Atlantis on the control panel for Tube #2. As he stepped into the glass enclosure, he muttered to himself.
"What did I ever see in that woman?!?"